“This is your home, Miss Johanna” says Cesar, when I compliment him on the beauty of Finch Bay Eco Hotel. And I am made to feel so welcome in my temporary home!
This 27-room hotel is located a 3 minute boat ride (free in the hotel’s panga or 60 cents by water taxi) plus a 5 minute walk from the main pier in Puerto Ayora. While it is easy to get back to the main town, there is little need given the resort’s great restaurant, big pool, and pretty beach complete with Galapagos animals.
Finch Bay also has two yachts for day cruises, the Sea Lion and Sea Finch. I had a spectacular day aboard the Sea Lion, visiting the land and marine iguanas and bachelor sea lions of South Plaza Island, and snorkeling with colorful fish and a few rays at Las Bachas, a white beach on the north part of Santa Cruz. The yachts are comfortable, with places to relax in the shade and sun, and serve a delicious buffet lunch.
You’ll be back at the hotel in time for a swim in their gorgeous pool, a drink while the sun sets, dinner in the restaurant, and then a restful sleep in your comfortable bed. Rooms at Finch Bay are not huge, but are well designed and have lots of closet space. And each one has a welcoming hammock on the balcony surrounding the mangroves.
As the name implies, Finch Bay Eco Hotel takes extra effort with its environmental practices. For example, it is the only area hotel that desalinates its own water, it is replenishing the mangrove forests, and was named a World’s Leading Green Hotel at the 2014 World Travel Awards.
The sun poured through my window, as did the sweet sound of crashing waves. I looked out at the spectacular view of the pale sandy beach, blue blue water, an inviting swimming pool, and yes, an iguana crossing the street.
I’m at Iguana Crossing Boutique Hotel on Isabela Island.
Isabela is a much quieter island than Santa Cruz, the “main” Galápagos island. There is just one small town, and the roads are made of packed sand. Speed bumps are lengths of thick rope laid across the sand. And the speed bumps are important. Isabela’s marine iguanas spend much of their day crossing this road, diving in the sea to feast on algae, and crossing back to find a sunny rock to soak up some sun. Iguana Crossing Hotel is very aptly named!
This boutique property with 14 rooms — all decorated differently, of course — is the best property on the island. Some rooms face the sea, and others have a view of a pretty pinkish pond where more iguanas and a few ducks hang out. Rooms are equipped with a TV with DVD (there is no cable or satellite programming), AC (you won’t need it, the breeze is perfect), small fridge, safe, and a large bathroom (though with an eco-shower requiring a button push to keep the flow constant).
The three-story building was constructed by local craftsmen using native materials. Go up to the roof terrace for a cocktail or a dip in the jacuzzi, or lounge by the pool in front of the hotel. You won’t be able to keep your eyes off the view. A delicious breakfast, included in rates, is served either indoors or outdoors.
Lounging all over the port — park benches, sidewalks, on the beach — are sleepy sea lions (and yes, more iguanas). There are almost always a few playing in the shallow water along the pier, and they love to interact with swimmers. You’ll laugh into your snorkel as a sea lion swims circles around you and comes right up to look you in the eye. Penguins, though not quite as playful, also don’t seem to understand the Galápagos rule that humans are to stay 2 meters away from animals.
Isabela Island and Iguana Crossing Boutique Hotel are a delight. It is well worth the additional effort to get here.
Sometimes you want a home away from home. Hotels are nice, but they do involve a certain adherence to a schedule. It can get tiring eating in restaurants all the time, and having to go out if you want more than a mini bar snack or room service. Perhaps you want more privacy. Sometimes you need a little more space, ideally with a terrace and a view. Particularly when you’re travelling with children.
These are the times you want an apartment, not a hotel suite. Torre Mar Luxury Vacation Rentals is an excellent choice on the main island of Santa Cruz in Galapagos, particularly after the rigorous schedule of a cruise and you just want to relax at the end of your vacation.
Owners Donna and John have several apartments and even a town house available, depending on how much space you need. I stayed in a lovely two bedroom flat in their main building, a few blocks from Puerto Ayora’s main street and on the same floor as the huge Terraza Social with a hammock, barbeque and views of the sea. You’re a short walk to restaurants, bars, food shops, day-trip providers and the port with its sleeping sea lions.
The flats are well-furnished and well-supplied. When you see the giant lobsters for sale at the fish market, you will crave the opportunity to cook up a feast. At Torre Mar you can! There’s even a blender so you can mix up some creative cocktails to enjoy on the terrace.
Flats all have a private balcony, come fully furnished, with full kitchen including microwave, plus LCD TV with DVD, and a local cell phone (you just need to buy minutes; SIM cards are difficult for non-Ecuadorians to buy).
A serene five-star hotel in the Galápagos, Royal Palm is indeed royal, with Prince Charles staying here in 2009. Royal Palm is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, and has the location, facilities and service that you would expect of such a designation — all excellent.
Up in the highlands of Santa Cruz island, on a 190 hectare (480 acre) private estate, the hotel is an ideal place to cool down and relax after a day’s Galápagos explorations. On site are a health and fitness centre (with exercise equipment, table tennis, jacuzzi, sauna and massage room), tennis courts, swimming pool, business centre, and a delicious restaurant, complete with grand piano and fireplace.
There are eight rooms (casitas) and 13 stand-alone spacious villas. Each has a jacuzzi built for two and the villas have wood-burning fireplaces. My villa had a view of the sea, birds flitting past, and four very large rooms (six, if you count the separate rooms for the shower and toilet).
Ensure you save time to explore the on-site lava tunnel. Much more interesting than the main Santa Cruz lava tunnel, you’ll be fascinated by the geological history of the island, stories of the original owner’s lava tunnel parties and wine cellar, and learn to identify a lava bomb. There are even a few plants thriving deep underground, despite receiving only two hours of artificial light per day. Aspiring naturalists will be just as fascinated by the tunnel as they are with Galápagos’ endemic animal population.
The Royal Palm is a hotel which takes the environment seriously. They are replanting forests with the rare native miconia plant, collect and filter rainwater (vastly reducing the reliance on water tankers necessary to deliver fresh water to most parts of the islands), and have an organic kitchen garden.
Services and facilities are exceptional, befitting a Leading Hotel of the World. Royal Palm is your perfect choice for a luxe stay in Galápagos.